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Big Boobs & Big Profits; How Video Games Sell Sex & Inequality

The video game industry is estimated to hit around $132 billion by 2020. With numbers like this, it’s obvious that men, women, and others alike are clearly drawn towards the ever-evolving graphics and storylines that video games offer.  However, the notion that video gaming community is a male only space continues to persist – even though 48% of women play video games.  

Video game marketing often panders towards a heterosexual male gaze too, often showcasing male characters front and center that have a wide variance in physical appearance, whereas when women even make the front cover of a game share similar characteristics to each other such as large breasts, tiny waists, and tight-fitting or sexualized clothes.  Yet, in nearly equal numbers, women continue to buy and consume these products at the same rate as men.  This is unusual given that women have little to no characters in which they can closely relate to in terms of realistic appearance, socio-economic standing, race, background, etc.  This creates a cycle in which game developers continue to make similar games targeted at men, because ultimately those are what sell most.  But what consequences do these games have on the modern world?

Sexualization

Overt sexualization of standard cookie-cutter female models is the most obvious problem that most video games display.  Big boobs sell games, but they also sell a slew of other psychological problems to anyone who play and view these figures.  Hourglass figures promote a common “woman” that embodies what game developers show as the perfect woman – thin, curvy in the chest and waist, but with a flat stomach and absolutely no muscles or fat on her body anywhere.  Women who are shown these images over and over again often begin to develop body issues, seeing themselves as too heavy-set or ugly because they’re being sold a lie that women must look a certain way in order to be attractive or worthy of love and attention.  Men that view these different body shapes are also sold the idea that this is what a woman should look like, so when they interact with women in their lives that don’t fit this generic mold, they often feel cheated.  Essentially, women are viewed as being inherently “sexual” beings in today’s social mindset due to their portrayal in media. This creates the potential for men to become aggressive towards women, as they now view them as liars.

Aggression

Video games being coded as a masculine activity actively leads to higher levels of aggression towards women who try to become a part of the community as developers, or players since they are viewed as “outsiders” or “intruders” into a space that “isn’t theirs.”  Sexist slurs, sexual harassment, and aggression in the form of having women “prove themselves” in a wide variety of video game knowledge are common forms of abuse female gamers face while trying to enjoy a game they paid to play.

Roles

Furthermore, women are often forced into roles in which they are traditionally submissive or nurturing when compared to the vast array of roles a male character can play.  In games that require gathering a team, women often play the roles of healing mages, which are ultimately expendable due to the player being able to buy healing potions. Male character on the other hand make up various classes such as warriors, archers, or wizards, who have control of magic that damages enemies or brings destruction of some kind.  And then there are characters like Princess Peach, who is really only famous for being the “prize” the player receives upon completing a Mario game as she is incapable of escaping but must be rescued.

Video games make up a multibillion dollar media industry that sells almost equally among male and female markets, and yet is targeted solely towards men.  This creates a gender imbalance between the two sexes, enforcing stereotypical gender roles onto the players themselves leading to high levels of harassment and body issues.  In order for this problem to end, media in its entirety must reform how it portrays women in more accurately and modern ways.
 

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Carly Sherba

Elizabethtown

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